United States: Prisons Before Parks

United States: Prisons Before Parks

Most populous city in the United States allocates more money to the police and prison system than to health and social services, Especially in areas where the proportion of low-income African-American residents is close to or greater than that of white high-income residents.


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“In cities with rich white residents and poor black residents, there is a The tendency of the political process to emphasize the prison approach so that the East can protect its wealth.Leo Beletsky, a professor at Northeastern University and the University of California at San Diego, explains.

that tilt results “particularly sharp” Because of the deep history of slavery in America that defines the country’s past.

“Many of the prison systems that developed in the U.S. have very clear roots Slavery and significant investment in social support is particularly under funded In places with a history of persecution”, defends Beletsky.

This is shown by their study on the priority of municipal funds in the country’s 50 most populous cities, where the researchers determined thatThe phenomenon occurs in 43 of them.

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From the cases of African-Americans George Floyd to Tyr Nichols, pleas to cut funding to police forces are gaining ground in the United States. Till now Floyd and Nichols have died at the hands of the police Echoing in the US Congress to push for police reform.

Police, corrections, courts, prosecution, public defense and community supervision are areas in which more municipal investment is made Compared to health services, housing, employment and construction of public places like parks etc.

According to the study, the The five cities that love this spend the most The prison systems are in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kansas City, Missouri, Indianapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona.

The inhabitants of these populations also have much to do with this event, Because at the end of the day they are the ones who vote for municipal governments, assures Ana Pereira, director of Mesa Communications.

In the case of that town in Arizona, a Republican mayor, along with its residents “they prioritize public safety”, So, “it’s a priority not only for the city but also for the voters,” Pereira says.

Pereira recalls that a few months ago the construction of a new public safety complex fire station and a police substation, thanks to a bond that was approved by voters.

A 2021 survey by the Morrison Institute reveals About 70% of residents in this city are “satisfied or very satisfied” Agree with the police service and allocating public funds to purchase resources for most bodies, such as body cameras for each officer.

Although each administration’s spending data is completely public, Beletsky points out that they are not completely transparent since cities “They try to obscure the investment” in the prison system.

In this sense, if a new prison is being built, it is possible that the expense is not accounted for under the prison budget, but under the public buildings budget, so a “Underestimating Prison Costs”.

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In contrast, the five cities at the other end, which encourage investment in health and social services, They are San Francisco (California), New York, Washington, Seattle (Washington) and Philadelphia (Pennsylvania).

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Philadelphia It is one of the poorest regions of America with a population of 1.5 million and Poverty rate of over 22%. Its chief financial officer, Robert McDermott, acknowledges that “every dollar invested in a jail cell is a dollar not invested in a school or playground and should be minimized as much as possible.”

“The mayor’s office has operated under the belief that the lack of inmates it will be in the long run If we invest in the welfare, education and job training of our residents in the short term”, claims McDermott.

Despite pandemic-driven social and health change, Beletsky warns it hasn’t happened “real change” priorities and that the police and prison system continue to take up a large portion of the budgetary pie.


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